Travels with my sister: conquering a lifetime of hearing loss

My younger sister was born three months premature and grew up with pronounced hearing loss. After a recent change for the better, she agreed to join me for a trip…

Kia’s story

I first realised that my sister was different when I was seven and she was six. Forida was told to wear hearing aids and I remember how much they embarrassed her. The chunky beige aids were conspicuous on her child-size ears and, to other schoolchildren, marked her out as different; not one of us. Continue reading

natural wonders in the uk

20 (typically modest) natural wonders in the UK

The best natural wonders in the UK may not equal those in the US, Canada or Australia, but the sometimes quirky, always striking sights are still worth seeing.

When the ArcelorMittal Orbit was foisted on the London skyline in 2012, it split opinion rather starkly. I, for my sins, thought it was quirky and interesting while Peter thought it a blight on the landscape.

“It’s so typically British,” he said – a notion that baffled me. It was so unbritish in its haphazard, loping design: a clear contradiction of the order and tradition that defines Britain.

When I told him as much, Peter explained: “I don’t mean the design but the ambition. The tower is medium height, medium size, medium everything. It’s half the size of the Eiffel Tower.” Continue reading

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Britain’s best long-distance footpaths

Britain’s best long-distance footpaths provide excellent access to the UK’s outdoors while showcasing the finest scenery our isles have to offer. 

When you think of the best long-distance hiking trails from around the world, little old Britain probably wouldn’t top of your list. Hikers will more likely be drawn to the Triple Crown of the Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest trails in the US, New Zealand’s Great Walks or the famous Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp treks in Nepal.

However, the UK does have an extensive network of long-distance footpaths. Managed by the National Trails in England and Wales and Scotland’s Great Trails north of the border, the UK has thousands of miles of tramping to be discovered – and the network continues to expand. Continue reading

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In photos: the best views in the Yorkshire Dales

We’ve put together a selection of the best views in Yorkshire Dales National Park, home to some of England’s prettiest landscapes. 

Having just moved to the area and started our exploration of the Yorkshire Dales in earnest, we thought it appropriate to share some of the wider scenery the Dales have to offer.

Yorkshire Dales National Park (YDNP) was designated in 1954 and extended by 24% in 2016 to cover 2,178 km2 in total. YDNP is famed for having some of the finest limestone landscapes in the UK with crags, pavements and caves set amid an expansive heather moorland of rolling hills and dramatic waterfalls, all criss-crossed with miles of dry stonewalls and picturesque villages. Continue reading

long reads on outdoor survival

12 great long reads on outdoor survival… and surrender

A handpicked selection of some of the most dramatic, absorbing long reads on outdoor survival from the last five years. 

You may have guessed that we at Atlas & Boots are just a little bit obsessed with tales of endurance. From the best books about survival to epic journeys of discovery, we have written about some of the most dramatic pursuits in the history of exploration.

In recent years, we have been intrigued by a number of brilliant long reads on outdoor survival (and surrender). Continue reading

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Hiking Great Shunner Fell: my first ‘Dales 30’

Hiking Great Shunner Fell was my first of the Dales 30, the highest peaks in the Yorkshire Dales. One down, 29 to go…

As many of you will know, Kia and I recently moved to the country. It’s taken me eight years, but I’ve finally convinced Kia that life is better away from the busy south. As such, we’ve moved to the small and charming market town of Richmond on the edge of Yorkshire Dales National Park.

As well as enjoying the delights of Richmond, the best thing for me about our move is having easy access to the countryside, right on our doorstop. It takes five minutes to drive into the national park, one of Britain’s 15 breathing spaces, while at the end of our street is a walking trail along the River Swale that gets us into the park in just 15 minutes. Continue reading

The ups and downs of our move to the country

After three decades in London, would a move to the country prove horribly wrong? We share the ups and downs of our time in the Dales.

We’ve finally settled down. After four years on the road interspersed by stretches in a tiny French village, we’re back in Britain permanently – well, kind of. We have trips to Namibia, South Africa and possibly Costa Rica planned for Nov-Dec and more next year, but we also have a permanent home. Continue reading

Call of the wild: disconnecting from daily life

A strange evening with Desconnexions in Catalonia reminds us why it’s so important to get off our laptops and occasionally leave our phones at home.

I was on Wikipedia reading about a 2015 controversy involving a judge on the New Zealand version of X Factor when I realised I was doing it again: wasting time reading about a person I didn’t know involved in an event I didn’t care about on a show I didn’t watch. What the hell was I doing?

I had fallen down the internet rabbit hole – again. Continue reading

Exploring Hell’s Canyon in Catalonia

Hell’s Canyon in Catalonia reminds us once again why we fell in love with the great outdoors.

“Eat a big breakfast,” said Jordi – four words that told me I’d have a hell of a morning. I’m not one for big breakfasts, but I’ve learned that when an uber-fit mountain guide tells you to have one, you should have one.

I added lashings of pa amb tomàquet to my plate, a simple but delicious Catalan dish of bread, tomato and olive oil. I ate toast and nutella and cheese and crackers and cereal and yoghurt and washed it down with two cups of tea. Then I ate more pa amb tomàquet. There was no way I’d be running low today. Continue reading

Star struck: exploring the world’s Dark Sky Reserves

International Dark Sky Reserves are protected areas that offer exceptionally starry nights. We review the 13 places that hold this hallowed status.

They sound like something out of Star Trek, these ‘Dark Sky Reserves’ – like they may have been conjured one evening in a lively LA writers room. Unlike the ‘Delta Quadrant’ or ‘Delphic Expanse’, however, International Dark Sky Reserves actually exist.

We at Atlas & Boots hadn’t heard of them until our recent trip to New Zealand‘s Aoraki Mackenzie, one of the world’s 13 Dark Sky Reserves. Continue reading

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Hiking in Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia

We spent a day hiking in Aigüestortes National Park across a wild landscape of twisting waters and soaring summits in the Catalan Pyrenees.

Tucked away in the northwestern corner of Catalonia, deep in the Catalan Pyrenees, is the region’s best-kept secret: Aigüestortes and Lake Sant Maurici National Park or Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici in Catalan.

Aigüestortes is absurdly pretty. Mighty jagged peaks tower far above evergreen forests and myriad glinting lakes. It’s a landscape begging to be hiked – and so we did. Continue reading

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Mountaineering calendar: when to climb the world’s greatest mountains

We’ve created a mountaineering calendar of the world’s greatest mountains and the optimal time of year at which to climb them, listed month by month.

Since I first started climbing, I must have spent hours typing “when is the best time to climb…” into search engines and then crawling through websites to find the key piece of information I needed. Only when I have a date in mind can I start to think about the practicalities of actually trying to climb a mountain (i.e. booking time off work, flights, budget, gear etc).

To solve this problem once and for all, Atlas & Boots has put together a mountaineering calendar of the world’s greatest mountains and the optimal time of year at which to climb them. Continue reading

Iron nerve: via ferrata in the Catalan Pyrenees

Our trip to Catalonia begins with a via ferrata in the Catalan Pyrenees, testing my nerve, strength and agility.

I lean out from the rock face and even though I’m fastened in three different places, my heart kicks a skittish beat when I look down at the ground. I’m only metres above it, but suspending myself from an iron rung and leaning into the abyss goes against my natural instincts.

Jordi, our expert guide from Outdoor Adventour, tells me to lean out further. “You have to know you’re safe down here in case you need to do this up there.” Continue reading

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20 interesting facts about Ireland

We share the most interesting facts about Ireland, gathered on a short hop to the country’s Reeks District.  

My latest trip to Ireland took me to an area of the country I had never visited: the newly renamed Reeks District. I spent my time hiking, kayaking, surfing and learning that there’s much more to Ireland than wild waters and high hills.

The island has a reputation rich in history, tradition, literature and music, not to mention its charismatic and friendly people. Over the years, I’ve picked up numerous interesting facts about Ireland. Here, I share my favourites. Continue reading

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8 things to do in the Reeks District, Ireland

We explore the best things to do in the Reeks District, Ireland’s brand new adventure playground.

Set on Ireland’s west coast, the newly named Reeks District or ‘the beating heart of the Kingdom of Kerry’ is home to some of Ireland’s most magnificent scenery. With a wild blend of lofty peaks, untamed coastline and secluded moraine lakes, the Reeks District hosts an array of activities to keep outdoor enthusiasts entertained for days on end.

I visited the Kingdom of Kerry to try some of the best things to do in the Reeks District, Ireland’s brand new adventure playground. Continue reading

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Climbing Carrauntoohil: Ireland’s highest mountain

Climbing Carrauntoohil is an excellent introduction to the Reeks District, Ireland’s adventure playground.

The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks in Kerry are Ireland’s highest mountain range and the inspiration behind the region’s newly renamed Reeks District, home to Carrauntoohil which at 1,038m (3,406ft) is Ireland’s highest mountain.

High cliffs, mountain lakes and fast running rivers define the range which runs 19km along the eastern boundary of the Iveragh Peninsula. Known as the backbone of the Kingdom of Kerry, the sandstone mountains have been hewn over hundreds of thousands of years by glacial erosion and extreme weather. Continue reading

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Animal instinct: eco-friendly wildlife tours

A curated selection of eco-friendly wildlife tours that place animal protection at the top of their agenda.

Having just returned from an incredible diving trip in the Great Barrier Reef, we’ve seen first hand how important it is to choose eco-friendly wildlife tours to minimise the environmental impact of our travels.

We’ve always maintained that tourists should be able to visit vulnerable places as long as they do so in a sustainable way. Of course, no tourism is impact-free. Only last month, a cruise ship guard tragically shot dead a polar bear in NorwayContinue reading

Polar bear death: has extinction tourism gone too far?

A cruise ship guard recently shot and killed a polar bear. Did the bear get too close, or the tourists?

I don’t usually dig myself into holes that I can’t climb out of. I like strong arguments and clear answers – but there’s only one answer here and, sadly, it’s one I don’t like.

Let me start at the start: on 28th July, a cruise ship guard shot a polar bear in Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago that lies between Norway’s mainland and the North Pole. Continue reading

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7 adventure sailing holidays for your bucket list

Adventure sailing holidays have the ability to carry passengers to the far reaches of the world, accessing some of the most remote and magnificent scenery the world has to offer.

Having recently returned from my first tall ship sailing adventure off the west coast of Scotland, and with my interest for the high seas well and truly piqued, I take a look at some adventure sailing holidays I would love to join. Continue reading